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WebPage Design by Lars Meyer - Volunteer in the Pop-Wuj Social Work Program

© 1992 - 2013 Association Pop Wuj - Spanish School Guatemala

1.    Is there Zika in Xela (Quetzaltenango)?
2.    In which program can I participate?
3.    Which is the best program for me?
4.    Can children study at Pop Wuj?
5.    What are the volunteer opportunities at Pop Wuj?
6.    Is there a cost to volunteer at Pop Wuj?
7.    What should I bring with me for the volunteer work?
8.    How can I apply to be an intern/long-term volunteer?
9.    What is needed and how can I donate to the Pop Wuj community
       projects?
10.  Are monetary donations tax deductible?
11.  How can I make my tuition payment?
12.  How can I change U.S. dollars to Guatemalan quetzales?
13.  How much money should I bring to Guatemala for my personal
      expenses (separate from tuition payment)?
14.  What should I do if I need to cancel before arriving in Guatemala?
15.  What should I do if I need to cancel after I have started the program
      at Pop Wuj?
16.  Is my registration fee refundable?  
17.  Is my tuition payment refundable if I decide to leave the program?
18.  Should I pay a tuition deposit to participate at Pop Wuj?
19.  Should I live with a Guatemalan family or can I arrange my own
       lodging?
20.  How will I wash my clothes?
21.  What kind of electrical system is there in Guatemala?
22.  Is there internet at Pop Wuj?
23.  Can I use my cell phone from home in Guatemala?
24.  Does Pop Wuj offer reception service at the airport and/or
      transportation to Quetzaltenango (Xela)?
25.  Does Pop Wuj offer an overnight option in Guatemala City if my flight
      arrives late?
26.  Does Pop Wuj offer a similar airport service for the end of my trip?
27.  How can I contact the Pop Wuj representative if my flight is cancelled
      or delayed?
28.  Is Guatemala safe?
29.  Can I climb a volcano on my own?
30.  Is it safe to use public transportation, aka "Chicken Buses?"
31.  What is the bus schedule for Pullman buses for Guatemala City to Xela
      and vice versa?
32.  What vaccines are needed for travelling to Guatemala?
33.  Should I bring sheets and towels, etc.?
34.  Should I tip my host family or my teacher?
35.  Where can I find a taxi?
36.  Do I need to a buy Spanish book?
37.  Do I need a visa to enter Guatemala?
38.  Should I buy travel insurance?
39.  Is there a suggested reading list?
40.  My question is not listed in the FAQ, what should I do?
1. Is there Zika in Xela (Quetzaltenango)?
Due to high elevation, the mosquito (Aedes aegypti) that carries Zika as well as dengue fever, chikungunya, yellow fever, and other diseases is NOT present in the city of Xela (officially called Quetzaltenango) nor the highland communities where Pop Wuj runs community projects.

Zika cases have been reported in other parts of Guatemala, and Pop Wuj encourages all students to take safety precautions if they plan to travel to lower elevations during their free time. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns that women who are or may soon be pregnant need to take special precautions and recommends that travelers in areas with Zika take steps to prevent mosquito bites such as wearing long sleeves/pants, using bug spray, and using screens or mosquito nets. Travelers should also remember that Zika can be sexually transmitted.

Our Student Coordinator is on hand to discuss travel plans, questions, or any concerns you might have at oficina@pop-wuj.org.

2. In which program can I participate?
You can participate in any of our Spanish programs.  Students interested in participating in the Medical Spanish Program or the Social Work Spanish Program will also participate in Cultural Competency during his/her first week in the program.  Cultural Competency is a series of lectures on the history, culture, economics, and anthropology of health in Guatemala.  These conferences are a requirement to participate in the Medical Spanish Program or the Social Work Spanish Program.  

3. Which is the best program for me?
If you want to study, practice, or improve your Spanish, the best program for you is the Regular Immersion Program.

If you want to enhance your  vocabulary, learn about the health system of a developing country or specifically of Guatemala, learn about traditional medicine, are a  professional or are studying in the health field, your best option is the Medical Spanish Program.

If you are a social worker, or want to be directly involved and have leadership responsibilities in the community projects while learning, practicing, and improving your Spanish, your best option is the Social Work Program.

If you are or want to be a teacher and/or want to learn about the Guatemala education system, then your best option is the Spanish for Teachers Program.

If you still have questions after reading the information on our website, please contact Jorge Archila, our international registration coordinator, at info@pop-wuj.org. He will help you choose the best program for you.

4. Can children study at Pop Wuj?
Yes, Pop Wuj accepts young students in the Regular Immersion Program.  We can place siblings together with one teacher or with individual teachers.  A parent or caregiver must stay at Pop Wuj during the classes and attend any projects with the children.  

5. What are the volunteer opportunities at Pop Wuj?
Volunteer opportunities in the Safe Stove Project, the Family Support Center, and in our various small environmental projects are open to all Pop Wuj students.  Only students in the Medical Spanish Program may volunteer in the Medical Projects.  Students in the Social Work Spanish Program take on leadership responsibilities in various projects, as well as work in the scholarship program.  For more information about our community projects please visit and our projects blog.

6. Is there a cost to volunteer at Pop Wuj?
If you are a Pop Wuj student there is no additional cost for volunteering.  Pop Wuj Spanish students often serve as short-term volunteers in our projects.  The tuition that you pay is for your classes and homestay.  Pop Wuj accepts long-term volunteers (interns) through our partnership with Entremundos.

We offer several internships, including:  Family Support Center Coordinator, General Projects Coordinator, Environmental Projects Coordinator, Assistant Medical Projects Coordinator, and Scholarship and Education Coordinator.  There are additional expenses associated with the Entremundos internship program.  Please visit Entremundos for more information.

Pop Wuj does not offer stipends, food, or lodging for long- or short-term volunteers.

7. What should I bring with me for the volunteer work?
Essentially nothing.  However, if you plan to work in the clinic, it is a good idea to bring scrubs, your stethoscope, and otoscope.  Although not required, all kinds of donations are appreciated, including medicines, new and used clothing for children, shoes, and personal and dental hygiene products, etc.  Feel free to review our wish lists before packing:
General Wish List
Medical Wish List

8. How can I apply to be an intern/long-term volunteer?
We have partnered with Entremundos, a local NGO, to help us recruit, interview, and select interns/long-term volunteers. Please visit Entremundos for more details and to apply.

9. What is needed and how can I donate to the Pop Wuj community projects?
We have a General Wish List and a Medical Wish List.  It is difficult to mail donations to Guatemala, so we recommend that incoming students simply bring any donations with them in their luggage.

10.  Are monetary donations tax deductible?
Yes, monetary donations are tax deductible in the U.S.  However, the donations must go through the Foundation Todos Juntos.   Foundation Todos Juntos, a 501(c)3 non profit in the U.S., supports Pop Wuj's projects.

The Foundation Todos Juntos tax identification number is 91-2147794.  Please visit Foundation Todos Juntos for more details and to donate online.  Any donations made directly to Pop Wuj in Guatemala are not tax deductible.

11. How can I make my tuition payment?
Pop Wuj’s preferred method of payment is Guatemalan quetzales or U.S. dollars.  Pop Wuj also accepts credit card payments via GuatePay, a secure online payment system, however there is an additional 8% fee when paying with a credit card.  You may want to consider bringing Traveler’s Cheques and changing them in Xela before paying your tuition in cash. Unfortunately Pop Wuj can no longer accept personal or cashier’s checks.

12. How can I change U.S. dollars to Guatemalan quetzales?
We recommend that students change approximately $50 at the airport.  The airport exchange rate is not favorable, so we suggest that students change U.S. dollars to quetzals or withdraw money from an ATM after arriving in Xela.  Credit cards are not accepted at many places, so it is necessary to have cash.

13. How much money should I bring to Guatemala for my personal expenses (separate from tuition payment)?
There is no right answer to this question. It will depend on whether you are a person who enjoys eating in restaurants, going out at night, as well as how many souvenirs you expect to purchase.  You might also choose to participate in extra activities, including weekend trips and hikes.  Public transportation to the communities where we work is very inexpensive and students are required to pay for their own public transportation.  

14.  What should I do if I need to cancel before arriving in Guatemala?
To cancel your reservation before you arrive in Guatemala, please write an email to our registration coordinator, Jorge Archila, at info@pop-wuj.org to let us know about the cancellation.  Although not required, we appreciate if you include the reason for your cancellation.

15. What should I do if I need to cancel after I have started the program at Pop Wuj?
If you are already participating in the program and for some reason need to cancel your participation and leave early, all you have to do is talk to the student coordinator or any of the directors, and explain the reason for the cancellation.  

16. Is my registration fee refundable?  
No, the registration fee is not refundable under any circumstance.  The registration fee holds your reservation at Pop Wuj.

17. Is my tuition payment refundable if I decide to leave the program?
Depending on the situation, all or part of your payment may be refundable.  Pop Wuj refunds tuition on a case-by-case basis, depending on the reason for cancellation and how many days of class and home stay you have completed.

18. Should I pay a tuition deposit to participate at Pop Wuj?
No, a tuition deposit is not necessary. The registration fee is not a deposit nor is it an advance payment of your tuition. The registration fee is the only way to guarantee your space in any of our programs and includes administrative costs.

19. Should I live with a Guatemalan family or can I arrange my own lodging?
Although we strongly recommend it, living with a host family is not required.  Living with a family allows you to be fully immersed in the language and culture.  However, if you prefer, you can find your own lodging in Xela.  If you do not live with a host family, we will discount $50/week from your tuition payment.  Visit our website home stay page for more information about homestays.

20.  How will I wash my clothes?
Neither Pop Wuj nor the host families offer a laundry service.  However there are many laundry services close to Pop Wuj.  Pop Wuj maintains a connection to the Lavandería El Calvario and employees of the laundry come to Pop Wuj at 8am to pick up dirty laundry.  They wash, dry, and fold the clothes and return them between 4:30 and 5pm the same day.  The laundry is located just two blocks from the school.  

*Please note that the laundry is not part of the school and therefore their services are not the responsibility of Pop Wuj.  Pop Wuj students are not required to use these services.

21. What kind of electrical system is there in Guatemala?
Guatemala has the same electrical system as the U.S.  Students from the U.S. and Canada do not need to bring adaptors.  Students from other countries should bring an adaptor in order to use the outlets.

22.  Is there internet at Pop Wuj?
Yes, Pop Wuj offers free Wi-Fi 8am-7pm M-F and 11am-7pm on Sunday.  If you bring your own device such as a laptop, phone, or tablet, you are welcome to use our Wi-Fi.  The name of the network and code is posted at the school and also be found in the student orientation packet.  If you do not bring your own device, Pop Wuj has a few computers on site for student use.  There are also many internet cafes in Xela where you can use the internet, print, and scan documents.  Many cafes/restaurants in Xela also offer Wi-Fi.  Most homes in Quetzaltenango do not have Wi-Fi.

23.  Can I use my cell phone from home in Guatemala?
If you have an international phone service it might work in Guatemala, but there are no guarantees even if your service provider at home says that it will work.  If you take your phone to a phone center in Guatemala, they can unlock or release your own phone to use a Guatemalan SIM card.   In most cases this works and you would be able to use it to make and receive calls.  

However, the most reliable cell phone option is to buy an inexpensive phone in Guatemala.  Incoming calls are free.  These phones can also make international calls, but most students use Skype or FaceTime for international phones calls.

24. Does Pop Wuj offer reception service at the airport and/or transportation to Quetzaltenango (Xela)?
Pop Wuj offers reception services in Guatemala City until 8pm.  Our representative can pick you up at the airport and take you to the bus terminal to take a bus to Xela.  Pop Wuj does not offer private transportation or accompaniment from Guatemala City to Xela.  

Airport reception and transportation to the bus station costs $15/person, payable directly to our representative.  Our representative can help you purchase your bus ticket, but the ticket is not included in the price of the reception service.  There is no discount given for students travelling together. Bus tickets to Xela generally cost about $8-10.

Our reception service is available until 8pm.  If your flight is scheduled to arrive after 8pm, we recommend that you reserve a room at an airport hotel/hostel, such as Dos Lunas or Los Volcanes.  This hotels offer airport reception as well.

25. Does Pop Wuj offer an overnight option in Guatemala City if my flight arrives late?
Yes, our representative in Guatemala City offers lodging to students who cannot travel to Xela the same day that their flight arrives.  Pop Wuj does not recommend travel between cities after dark and as such the latest bus that we recommend is the 3pm bus to Xela.  The service costs $35/person and includes airport reception, overnight accommodation, and transportation to the bus station the next day.  Our representative can help you purchase your bus ticket, but the ticket is not included in the price of the reception service.  There is no discount given for students travelling together. Bus tickets to Xela generally cost about $8-10.

26.  Does Pop Wuj offer a similar airport service for the end of my trip?
Yes, the same type of service is offered if you need to stay in Guatemala City before your flight leaves.  The prices are the same: $15/person for reception at the bus station and transportation to the airport or $35/person for reception, lodging, and transportation to the airport the following day.  There is no discount given for students travelling together. There are also many hotels/hostels near the airport if you prefer to stay in a hotel.

27.  How can I contact the Pop Wuj representative if my flight is cancelled or delayed?
Please contact our representative, Maria, or one of her family members to inform them of any change in arrival details.  
María: 5826-4636 (cell), 2435-0528 (home), mdrp53@hotmail.com
Pedro, María's son: 5808-1000 (cell),
Juan Ramón, María's son: 5422-4148 (cell), jral231@hotmail.com

28. Is Guatemala safe?

In Guatemala and elsewhere in Latin America there are security issues. Gangs and drug traffickers are creating security problems in the country.  Xela is no exception, but on a smaller scale.

During new student orientation Pop Wuj offers safety tips, including which areas are unsafe and at what times.  Some general tips for staying safe are:
Ÿ
If you see large concentrations of people (protests, etc.), do not approach.  
Ÿ
If you see children alone, do not try to photograph them, engage them, or offer them candy or ice cream, etc.  
Ÿ
Do not take pictures of people without their permission.
Ÿ
Do not walk alone at night.  
Ÿ
We recommend that students use taxis after 9pm.  Only take taxis that are identified with a number on the door.  Taxis that have a taxi sign on the roof may not be official so be sure to look for a number on the door.

29. Can I climb a volcano on my own?
Never try to climb a volcano alone.  Not all trails are well marked and you could get lost or hurt.  If you are alone you might seem suspicious to the local people.  Speak with your teacher, the directors, or the student coordinator regarding the hikes.  There are many tour agencies in town that offer secure volcano hikes with trained guides and police accompaniment.

30.  Is it safe to use public transportation, aka "Chicken Buses?"
It is generally safe to use chicken buses, especially if it is a short trip.  Travel to some places is only available via chicken bus.  In general, we recommend that students use pullman buses for travel to Guatemala City as the trip is longer and the pullman buses are safer and more comfortable than chicken buses.

31. What is the bus schedule for Pullman buses for Guatemala City to Xela and vice versa?
To view the schedules and prices for all of the bus lines that serve this route, please visit Xelapages.  Pop Wuj recommends that students use the Alamo bus line for travel between Guatemala City and Xela.  The Alamo bus station and buses are generally safer, more punctual, and have more departure times than the other bus lines.  Students can choose the type of transportation that is most convenient for them.

32.  What vaccines are needed for travelling to Guatemala?

Guatemala has no immunization requirements for entry. Your doctor or travel clinic will likely advise you on certain vaccines that you should have before travelling to a developing country, including: hepatitis, tetanus, and/or malaria pills.  For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Although no vaccines are required for travel to Guatemala, you may feel more comfortable if you are vaccinated before travelling.  

Please note that there is no reason to take anti-malaria medicine before travelling to Xela.  The elevation of Xela is over 7,000 feet and there is no malaria here.  In addition, the side effects of the pills to prevent malaria can be very strong when you are at such a high an elevation.  You might choose to take anti-malaria pills if you travel to other parts of Guatemala or Central America.

33. Should I bring sheets and towels, etc.?
If you have chosen to live with a host family then the family will provide sheets and blankets but not towels.

The nights are generally cold in Xela so you should bring warm pajamas and socks.  Most homes do not have heat or carpeting.  Please see our suggested packing list for more details.

34. Should I tip my host family or my teacher?
No, it is not customary to tip families or teachers.  Sometimes students choose to thank their families by cooking for them or taking them out to eat during their last week.  Other students have invited their families to the school dinner on Thursday evening.  Sometimes students buy thank you gifts for their teachers.  There is no requirement to cook or buy anything for families or teachers.
 
35. Where can I find a taxi?
In Xela there are taxis parked near the markets, hospitals, bus stations, and parks.  There is also a list of known taxi drivers in the student orientation packet.  In addition, you can ask your host family, your teacher, or in a restaurant for recommendations if you need to call a taxi.  In Xela there are not many taxis that drive around looking for passengers, so it is unlikely that you would catch a taxi on the street.  

Always negotiate the price before getting into the taxi.  Try to carry small bills and never pay with a Q100 bill.  The taxi driver may tell you that he does not have change.  

If you need to travel in the early morning schedule your taxi the day before so that they will pick you up at your house.  You can ask your teacher, the student coordinator, or your host family to help you schedule an early morning taxi.

36.  Do I need to a buy Spanish book?
It is not a requirement to purchase the grammar or medical Spanish books that Pop Wuj offers.  However many students find these books helpful. The school has a library from which students can borrow books as well. Teachers often allow students to make copies from their books.

37. Do I need a visa to enter Guatemala?
If you have a current U.S. passport, you do NOT need a visa. You will receive a 90-day  visa when you enter Guatemala.  If you plan to stay for more than 90 days, you can request an extension when entering the country, in an immigration office, or you can leave the country for 72 hours.  When you return to Guatemala you will receive a new passport stamp indicating another 90-day visa.

The Mexican border is the closest border to renew your visa.  Please note that travelling to Honduras, El Salvador, or Nicaragua does not satisfy the requirement to leave Guatemala.  

Citizens of other countries should contact their consulates to determine visa requirements before they leave for Guatemala.  This may be done by mail, but you should allow at least three to four weeks for the process.

38. Should I buy travel insurance?
Pop Wuj does not require students to carry travel insurance, however we recommend that students consider purchasing it.  World Nomads offers comprehensive policies.  If you intend to bring electronics with you, you may wish to insure them as well.  Please be careful with your belongings at all times while travelling.

39. Is there a suggested reading list?
If you would like to read about the history and current situation in Guatemala, you might be interested in the following books and website:
1. The Battle for Guatemala by Susanne Jonas
2. Bitter Fruit by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer
3. The Guatemala Reader edited by Greg Grandin, Deborah T. Levenson, and Elizabeth Oglesby
4. The UN Report on Human Development in Guatemala

40. My question is not listed in the FAQ, what should I do?
Contact Jorge Archila at info@pop-wuj.org and he will have an answer for you.
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